10. Iowa State Cyclones: It was a disastrous season last year in Aimes, as the Cyclones went just 2-22, without winning a single conference game. To make the bleak situation worse, Iowa State lost their two best players, Rasir Bolton and Jalen Coleman-Lands to Gonzaga and Kansas, respectively. They did however get some talent back from the transfer portal with Izaiah Brockington, Tristan Enaruna, and Gabe Kalscheur coming to the Hawkeye state. Even with the added fire power, the Cyclones are simply outmatched by every other team in the Big 12 this year. They don’t have the individual scorers or depth to keep pace with such a deep and solid conference. A win or two in the conference would be a nice step towards regaining some competence.
9. Kansas State Wildcats: The Wildcats are the other team trapped in the cellar of the Big 12. They are much better than the Cyclones but are still a good few paces back from the rest of the conference. They retained their formidable backcourt, with Nijel Pack and Mike McGuirl returning. The Wildcats kept their two leading scorers and added Mark Smith, a former four-star recruit from Missouri. They should steal a few wins from other lower-tier teams in the Big 12 and can build around star sophomore Pack moving forward.
8. TCU Horned Frogs: The eighth best team in the Big 12 the last three years, the Horned Frogs could stick in eighth for at least another year. A revolving door with leaving and incoming players, it should be an intriguing season for long-time Head Coach Jamie Dixon. The most notable player is returning guard Mike Miles, who as a freshman was the second most impactful player on the Horned Frogs. He will be joined by former four-star recruits Micah Peavy and Damon Baugh. After losing RJ Nembhard, TCU really needs Baugh and Peavy to be the players they looked like they could be in high school, rather than the disappointing players they have been so far in college. Even with that trio potentially bringing a quality scoring punch, they don’t have the depth to contend in the conference.
7. Oklahoma Sooners: After a solid season that saw the Sooners with an NCAA tournament game, they may have to temper expectations for a roster that has been decimated by transfers and players leaving for the NBA. Their three double-digit scorers from last season are now gone, and their only incoming transfer of note is the defensive-minded Jordan Goldwire. Umoja Gibson and Elijah Harkless will have to shoulder the load offensively, and a team that is incredibly thin in the front court will struggle on the glass and in the paint. In games where they can’t get the deep ball going, the Sooners will not have the firepower or big men to win games.
6. West Virginia Mountaineers: This is a squad loaded with veterans, and that maturity and experience should propel the Mountaineers to the middle of the Bog 12. Because of plenty of four and even five-year players, and Head Coach Bob Huggins coaching West Virginia since 2007, the consistency and leadership of the program is apparent. However what they bring in experience, they lack in scoring punch. Without a clear star on the team, they will lean on Sam McNeil and Taz Sherman to step up from their roles last season. Like many other teams in the conference, they lost standouts to the NBA. Miles McBride and Derek Culver are gone, and there are questions about the remaining pieces. Big jumps from former four-star recruits Jalen Bridges and Isaiah Cottrell will also be required for the Mountaineers to reach their peak. Even without a go-to scorer, the culture and holdovers from last season should keep West Virgina competitive.
5. Texas Tech Red Raiders: The Red Raiders need a big leap from former top recruit Terrance Shannon Jr. After taking his name out of draft consideration the 6’6 guard has the athleticism, speed, handles and burst to generate plenty of offense for himself and his teammates. His swing skill will be his three-point shooting, which he hit at less than 36% last season. If he can start to be a better shooter from range, he opens up opportunities for Marcos Santos-Silva inside and Kyler McCullar outside. Their depth will certainly be tested, with four of their six leaders in minutes per game last season won’t return. Plus, Head Coach Chris Beard, who led the Red Raiders to a national title game in 2019, will now be coaching in Austin for the rival Longhorns.
4. Oklahoma State Cowboys: Oklahoma State won’t be returning to the NCAA tournament this season, no matter how well they play. The NCAA denied their appeal of a ruling that came down last year, where they couldn’t win a game as the number four seed in last year’s tournament. To make matters worse, they lost the biggest star in the history of the program, last year’s number one overall pick, Cade Cunningham. While he was a huge lift to the team, they had great complimentary pieces around him. Guards Isaac Likekele and Avery Anderson III return, as does forward Kalib Boone. Plus, the Cowboys added to former five-star recruits in Memphis transfer Moussa Cisse and Kansas transfer Bryce Thompson. While neither lived up to their high school status, they bring great length and athleticism to their respective positions. Losing Cunningham obviously hurts, but they have the pieces without him to be competitive, even in such a tremendous conference.
3. Baylor Bears: This is where the fun begins, as there is a clear division between the best three teams and the rest of the conference. No team in the country lost more talent than the reigning champs. Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler and MaCio Teague were a three-headed monster on both ends of the court, while forward Mark Vital was a defensive menace. Those losses hurt, but Flagler should boost his numbers with more time, and Matthew Mayer remains one of the most intriguing players in the county with his blend of size, shooting and ball handling. Throw in the sensational incoming freshman, Kendall Brown, and the Bears will have plenty of size and shooting. It hurts that four-star recruit Langston Love will miss the season with a torn ACL, but Arizona transfer James Akinjo should bring quickness, scoring and passing to help bolster the Baylor offense. Baylor certainly has the offense to win the Big 12, but they don’t yet have the defense. If Brown can become the superstar that his high school tape suggests he can be, Baylor could be dangerous in the conference and the country.
2. Texas Longhorns: The Longhorns lost three tremendous big men to the NBA, nobody used the transfer more effectively than new Head Coach Chris Beard. The Longhorns completely re-tooled their team by adding four former four-star recruits, two former three-star recruits and a current four-star Jaylon Tyson to the 2022 class. The most notable transfers are guard Marcus Carr, forward Timmy Allen, and center Tre Mitchell . Carr averaged 19 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Mitchell added 19 points and seven rebounds a contest. Allen was also very productive, averaging 17 points, six rebounds and four assists. That dynamic trio should pair with returning Longhorns Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones to form one of the most versatile teams in the nation. With so many scoring threats and so much balance, this will be a squad that is incredibly difficult to slow down. They also have great depth in the front and back court and have young players who could bolster the roster more as the year goes on. They should have a shot at winning the Big 12 and should have even bigger aspirations as March approaches.
1. Kansas Jayhawks: The Jayhawks are stacked. Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, and Jalen Wilson, their three leading scorers from last year, all return. They also added Remy Martin, the Pac 12’s leading scorer. The lighting quick guard will help push the pace in transition and is a gifted scorer. Iowa State transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands, a 40% three-point shooter last year, adds additional spacing and ball handling. McCormack will be a dominant force in the post and gives the Jayhawks a bruiser down low to complement the great shooting and speed on the perimeter. Bill Self is an accomplished coach, and should help bring together the tremendous talents, and get the most out of them. If all of that wasn’t enough, they also bring four four-star freshmen who create extra depth. Simply put, Kansas is on a short list of favorites to cut down the nets at the end of the season, and they have unmatched ability from the rest of an excellent conference.
Top 5 Most Impactful Freshman
1. Kendall Brown, Baylor
Brown, a five-star recruit and potential lottery pick, is a smooth and fluid 6’8 forward. A tremendous scorer, he averaged over 20 points per game his senior season in high school. He also grabbed 1.8 steals per game, showcasing his active hands and defensive intensity. The key for Brown will be the outside shot, where he knocked down just 33% from deep. If he can raise that percentage, he has every other skill desired from the small forward position. He can handle the ball, score inside, rebound, pass, and defend positions 1-4. With his athleticism, he can be a force in transition and with his advanced skill he can excel in the half court. Scott Drew is also a perfect head coach for the young forward, as he can grow and develop into an even better defender and player. His draft stock hinges on his shot, but his impact will be obvious regardless for a Baylor team that lost so much talent.
Zach Clemence, Kansas
A 6’9, 210-pound power forward, Clemence should have a good season off the bench for the Jayhawks. He is a great shooter for his size and can defend the rim very well. He won’t get the same minutes as other freshmen because of how good Kansas’ frontcourt is, but he should make an immediate impact on the bench for the number three team in the country. He adds another dynamic to the team, as his shooting can open up the floor and create space for more traditional bigs to operate. Because of the talent on the team, he won’t put up huge numbers, but adding a big will the skill set of Clemence completely shifts the team’s bench. He has such a high floor for a young player because he won’t make many mistakes, plays with great energy, and can change the game on both ends of the court. He already showcased his skill level with a great first game against Michigan State.
Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State
Hunter is a slightly undersized guard at 6’1, 175-pounds. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with just about everything else. He scores really efficiently and is tough to stop when he gets downhill because of his burst and athleticism. Hunter also hunts down rebounds at an impressive rate for his stature, grabbing six per game last season. The guard should have plenty of opportunity to shine for an Iowa State team that is completely devoid of talent. With his quickness, shot making and rebounding, Hunter should be an immediate starter for the Cyclones. While he can’t single-handedly improve their grim outlook for the season, he should help make them more competitive, and way more exciting.
CJ Noland, Oklahoma
A four-star for the Sooners, Noland will have to play behind some more seasoned guards like Goldwire and Gibson. Once he gets on the court though, Noland should seize the opportunity. A powerful player, Noland gets to the basket with his strength and physicality and finishes well through traffic. He needs to continue working on shooting off the dribble but is a solid shooter off the catch. He has the size at 6’3, 215-pounds to guard multiple positions and could become the best perimeter defender of the Big 12 freshman. A good all-around player, Noland doesn’t have a standout skill, but is a capable passer, shooter, and rebounder. Oklahoma probably won’t make much noise in the conference, but Noland is an exciting young piece for new Head Coach Porter Moser.
KJ Adams, Kansas
Another standout recruit for Bill Self and the Jayhawks, Adams is a physical specimen. He used his leaping ability and strength to great effect down low in high school, as he pulled in plenty of rebounds and threw down thunderous dunks. The powerful forward should be most effective as a rim-runner in transition and a screener in the half court. His physicality should help him be a useful player right away, but his lack of skill on offense will limit his effectiveness. Offense is changing at all levels of basketball to be more perimeter oriented, and Adams needs to stay up to date with the change and become a better shooter. Without it, his incredible vertical, strength and size won’t be put to use nearly as often.
First-Team All Conference selections
Guard: Marcus Carr, Texas Longhorns
The Minnesota transfer has the power of a forward with the quickness and agility of a guard. After scoring almost 20 points per game last season, it would not be a surprise for Carr to be the scoring and assist leader for the Longhorns. He has great vision, is a willing passer, and can be a one-man show in transition. Carr could use an uptick in efficiency from behind the arc, but he should have easier shots this season as the entirety of the offense won’t rest on his shoulders. Carr has the stat-sheet stuffing ability, and the supporting cast, to be in the race for Player of the Year in the conference.
Guard: Remy Martin, Kansas Jayhawks
Another phenomenal guard who lit up scoreboards in a different conference, Martin is a blur with the ball. He creates opportunities for himself and others with his quickness and should put up plenty of points and assists this season. Another similarity to Carr, Martin needs to be more effective from deep, but should be able to thanks to less of the offensive burden falling on him. Named the preseason favorite to take home the Player of the Year award in the Big 12, the expectations are high for the senior guard. However, his skill and speed should help him live up to the lofty expectations.
Forward: Ochai Agbaji, Kansas Jayhawks
The 6’5 senior has been a productive if unspectacular player throughout his first three seasons. Yet, it seems as though the Jayhawk has taken leaps forward in his senior season. After contemplating heading to the NBA, Agbaji stayed, and made the right choice. He was unbelievable against Michigan State in the Champions Classic, exploding for 29 points while hitting 53% of his shots and 50% of his threes. He looks more confident and comfortable with the ball in his hands and was much more aggressive in getting to the rim. With that sort of performance and freedom, there is no telling what limits Agbaji can reach this season.
Forward: Kendall Brown, Baylor Bears
This one might be too bold. Matthew Mayer is a really good player that can do a little bit of everything on the court. Yet, the true freshman should put a massive stamp on the conference. He is such a smooth athlete, a great finisher, can play in transition and in the halfcourt. There is so much to fall in love with. The jump to collegiate basketball can be difficult, but there are few players in the country more capable of making it a smooth transition than the five-star forward. This spot could go to a bunch of players, as the conference is loaded with great options, but Brown has the ability to top them all.
Center: David McCormack, Kansas Jayhawks
McCormack should own the paint on both ends of the floor this season for Kansas. He isn’t a threat to shoot, and can exclusively play inside, but he does it so well. His 6’10, 250-pound frame overwhelms most other big men. For the few who can match up with his size, he also has a plethora of post moves and has a soft touch. On the defensive end, he protects the paint better than anyone else in the conference. He is a throwback big man, but did shoot 80% from the free throw line, highlighting that he can begin to extend his range. Even if he can’t, McCormack does so much damage in the paint on both ends, it’s hard to see anyone else claiming this spot.